Seattle Tilth farm sites are now Certified Organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), a nationally accredited certifier.
Twenty acres of mixed vegetables, fruits, berries and pasture (for animal grazing) produced at Seattle Tilth’s three educational farms are now included in the WSDA Certified Organic Program: Seattle Tilth Farm Works’ Red Barn Ranch, Rainier Beach Farm and Wetlands, and Seattle Youth Garden Works at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
The conversation with WSDA about certifying Seattle Tilth’s farm sites began in the winter of 2014. Due to the complex nature of Seattle Tilth Farm Works – 20 farmers operating on 39 acres – there were details to work through that required a bit more time than usual. Organic certification was a new concept for many of the participating farmers, and language and cultural differences added more time to the process.
After submitting the application for our three sites in May 2015, WSDA inspected the farms and record keeping systems in August. The multi-site certification required Seattle Tilth staff and farmers to work closely with WSDA inspectors to create a cohesive systems plan.
“From production inputs to marketing outlets, our team worked diligently through the process. Considering our situation was fairly complex, the process went surprisingly smoothly and quickly,” said Seattle Tilth Farm Works Manager Matthew McDermott. “The whole process was a bountiful learning experience for the farmers, staff and inspectors alike.”
Final notification of the certification arrived in late October after making a few improvements to our record keeping systems.
Despite using organic systems for meat and egg production, those items were not included in the certification this round. If we continue producing eggs and meat in the future, we’ll pursue certification then.
Seattle Tilth farm and garden sites have always used organic practices – in fact that’s the centerpiece of our education programs, growing food in a way that supports a healthy ecosystem. However, we have only been selling produce for a few years with the recent addition of our new farming and distribution programs, thus prompting the pursuit of organic certification.
WSDA’s formal recognition lends legitimacy to Seattle Tilth Produce, creating new market opportunities for the fruits, vegetables and pasture grown by Seattle Tilth.
McDermott explains, “Organic certification provides a set of farm guidelines that promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity, as well as good record keeping and farm organization. Overall, the farm systems and farm business are better off with organic certification.”
We’re excited to begin a new chapter as certified organic producers! For Seattle Tilth, these standards represent the minimum in ecologically agriculture and we strive to go above and beyond in practicing, learning and teaching about regenerative and sustainable agriculture techniques.